As part of his big infrastructure plan, President Joe Biden has signed an executive order to promote a fair and open internet and bring in more competition. The order calls on both the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to implement specific, quality-of-life initiatives. Among the topics include the net neutrality provisions repealed by the previous administration, ISPs, and right-to-repair efforts.
Even though Biden only “urges” the FCC to act now, it’s indeed inevitable that something’s gonna happen. Acting FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel is a strong supporter of net neutrality who called the previous decision to roll it back as a “cavalier disregard to the public.” Since then, she vowed to keep raising a ruckus to support the cause.
As such, Rosenworcel welcomed the effort to enhance the competition in the American economy and communications sector, as did another FCC commissioner, who expressed his strong support for dealing with the issue in his own statement. Aside from that, Democratic commissioners praised the order, saying that Biden’s move highlights the goal of providing affordability, competition, consumer choice, innovation, and fairness.
Looking back, millions of Americans protested former FCC Chairman Ajit Pai for his stance against net neutrality.
What’s Net Neutrality, Anyway?
Net neutrality is a principle that all internet traffic should be treated equally, regardless of whether you’re checking and posting pictures on Facebook, or streaming your favorite movies from Amazon or Netflix. Also, AT&T, which owns NBC Universal, can’t favor its own content over other competitors.
Barack Obama adopted net neutrality rules back in 2015, preventing ISPs from blocking or throttling net speed, or offering premium fast lanes.
Should I Care At All?
Yeah. It’s a battle about determining who will govern the internet to ensure that no broadband companies will abuse their power as gatekeepers. Broadband companies will also be asked to provide transparency on their pricing.
Pros & Cons
Supporters of the cause believe that net neutrality is necessary to prevent broadband companies from abusing their power over access to broadband networks. They also say that reinstating the FCC’s authority could bring in more competition. According to the Eighth Broadband Progress Report, approximately 6% of the total American population still don’t have access to reliable broadband service, let alone afford one. Reinstating net neutrality rules may not fix these issues overall, but supporters say it could help.
Meanwhile, the opposition believes that the restoration could stifle broadband investment. Ajit Pai claimed during his tenure that the repeal helped increase broadband investment. But there has been no clear evidence, even from broadband company CEOs, to prove the allegations. And as for the present situation, he implied that this move “undermines the independence of the agency.”
The only way to make it permanent would be for Congress to act without delay. They must reclassify broadband as a Type II service and re-establish its authority over broadband companies. If Congress won’t act, the net neutrality rules and FCC’s authority to regulate net speed will continue to be in an endless tug-of-war, depending on which party is seated on the White House.
Democrats on Capitol Hill are already pushing for some legislative action. Earlier this year, a judge said that California could finally implement its net neutrality rules after the Justice Department dropped its legal challenge. Even Senator Ed Markey, a Democrat of Massachusetts, praised Biden for his push towards a fair internet. He added that they cannot and will not stop saving net neutrality until it becomes a permanent law, once and for all.